Page last updated at 03:29 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 04:29 UK

Spanish Civil War bodies exhumed

By Danny Wood
BBC News, Madrid

Workers examine remains in one of the two graves at Santa Marta, Spain
The bodies were removed in the presence of relatives

Seven bodies have been removed from Spanish Civil War graves in the first court-ordered exhumation.

The remains were transferred from two mass graves in the cemetery of Santa Marta village to a medical lab for official identification.

Archaeologists recovered the remains, belonging to men executed by supporters of Gen Francisco Franco in 1936.

This could be the first of thousands of official exhumations that have been the focus of a lengthy legal wrangle.

Judge Garzon

The matter of exhumations is still controversial in Spain 70 years after the Civil War.

Previously, exhumations were done by volunteers with no official help.

These seven bodies were officially exhumed in the presence of relatives over five days.

Historians says tens of thousands of victims of the Civil War and the repression under Gen Franco that followed still lie unidentified in mass graves around the country.

Last October, High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon announced that mass exhumations could begin - including the grave where poet Federico Garcia Lorca is thought to be buried.

Judge Garzon named Gen Franco and more than 30 members of his regime as instigators of alleged crimes against humanity.

But the public prosecutor argued that these crimes could not be examined, because of Spain's Amnesty Law that prevents any criminal investigation into the Franco years.

Judge Garzon pulled out of his inquiry and transferred the responsibility for any future exhumations to local courts.

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